The way I see it, a country with a stupid shape like this one can't have too much smart people in it.' On the contrary, as Reuben's diatribe reveals, 'paper-bag shaped' Trinidad is full of schemers and dreamers. Maharaj's characters struggle heroically, though sometimes comically and oddly, to make their mark on the earth. It is as if the more frustrating their outward circumstances, the more intense their inner lives.
Bashir Ali, the librarian, has developed an intimate relationship with his books, and a passionate hatred of their borrowers. 'Bhaji and rice! You put bhaji and rice on top of Virginia!' Hoobnath Hingoo, the metalwork technician, imagines a dire fate for the arrogant young engineers who lord it around the oil refinery. 'Barbecue the whole side of them. Grill them nice and black. Afterwards we could have a sale. Grill engineers. Going cheap. Eat as much as you like...' And of course there is Roop, the writer, who wants to escape from his gas station 'to write that book... about everything I ever thought of since I born.'
Anyone who enjoys the comedies of V.S. Naipaul will find great pleasure in Maharaj's elegant and arresting style, but they will also find in Maharaj a profound empathy and understanding of his characters and their world. In the process, he gives a rewarding and insightful portrayal of the Indo-Trinidadian world in the late 20th century.
Rabindranth Maharaj was born in Trinidad. He now lives and teaches in Toronto. Several further collections of his stories have been published in Canada.